Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'The Best Australian Stories 2016' edited by Charlotte Wood

Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'The Best Australian Stories 2016' edited by Charlotte Wood

The Best Australian Stories 2016

edited by Charlotte Wood

Black Inc. $29.99 pb, 230 pp, 9781863958868

If a collection of stories is put together on the basis that these are the ‘best Australian stories of 2016’, is it fair or reasonable to hope for some kind of cohesiveness or gestalt beyond those three explicit parameters of quality, place, and time? The answer will depend largely on what the editor’s ideas might be, not only about what makes a good short story, but also about the way to make a group of individual stories add up to a book: to something more than the sum of its parts.

This year’s editor, Charlotte Wood, herself a celebrated writer of fiction, is a woman of unusual intellectual flexibility and reach: at one end of the spectrum she is quickly gaining an international reputation for her dreamlike dystopian novel The Natural Way of Things (2015), at once a powerful political fable and an extraordinary feat of imagination; and at the other end she has experience as a senior arts administrator and a scholar, this year adding a PhD to her growing collection of achievements.

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Kerryn Goldsworthy

Kerryn Goldsworthy

Kerryn Goldsworthy won the 2013 Pascall Prize. A former Editor of ABR (1986–87), she is one of Australia’s most prolific and respected literary critics. She taught for almost two decades at the University of Melbourne. Her publications include several anthologies, a critical study of Helen Garner, and her recent book Adelaide, which was shortlisted for a Victorian Premier’s Literary Award in 2012. In November 2012 she was named as the inaugural ABR Ian Potter Foundation Fellow. Her Fellowship article on reviewing, ‘Everyone’s a Critic’, appeared in the May 2013 issue of ABR.

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